Yeraltý Notlarý, 26 Haziran 2005

Sevgül Uludað

 

The `words` we use and their connection with `history`… (*)

Sevgul Uludag

This week, trying to write a joint invitation with one of my Greek Cypriot friends about an event that will take place soon, I find myself in trouble: frustration, anger, sadness… The feeling of being misunderstood or an atmosphere of not being able to convey the exact words that would express exactly what I mean…

Soon I realize that this is not a simple argument amongst a Turkish Cypriot and a Greek Cypriot. It’s an argument about how we each perceive history or how each have experienced history… It goes back almost 50 years affecting our relations of today… The words we use might happen to be the same but they have acquired completely different meanings… Not only that but words have been dirtied by the official rhetoric, bringing fear or uncertainty about using them. Words have been used to exclude rather than to include… Words have been used to describe something alien, something irrelevant, something other than their exact meaning…

We are talking of the murdered Turkish Cypriot journalists and my friend’s suggestion to write `They died for a free and independent Cyprus` triggers me!

`No!` I shout, on the phone, `This is like a slogan from the 60s! It’s not as simple as that! You need to know their lives to really understand why they were killed! They were killed because they were against TAKSIM (separation) of the island! And the word `independent Cyprus` has been used by officials over and over again and it does not really reflect what they died for…`

But this can’t be the only explanation, there must be more to it…

My friend tells me of an article of Sener Levent in POLITIS newspaper about EOKA’s anti-colonial struggle…

`But don’t you realize that the Turkish Cypriot community was never part of an anti-colonial struggle against the British? It was just the Greek Cypriots waging this struggle!`

It’s `new information` for my Greek Cypriot friend and she’s a bit surprised… Perhaps she never realized this and perhaps deep down, I never did either. Only by using the word `free and independent Cyprus` the whole thing is triggered and I start on a course of attempting to understand, what lies underneath the tip of the iceberg…

And soon after the anti-colonial struggle starts, EOKA and TMT start fighting each other… The original struggle of anti-colonialism disappears – it is no longer visible or acknowledged by Turkish Cypriots because anything that EOKA has done becomes `bad`… Even though EOKA starts up as an anti-colonial struggle and at the very beginning does not have Turkish Cypriots but British as their target, when it starts killing Turkish Cypriots as well, it becomes an `enemy` of Turkish Cypriots. EOKA at that time, is killing some Turkish Cypriot policemen but they are also killing Greek Cypriot policemen. Because the police is employed by the British and is sent to catch them… But this is not visible in the type of history we are taught at schools: We are only told that EOKA attacked to kill Turkish Cypriots, full stop.

Years later, from a Greek Cypriot friend, I learn how Greek Cypriots had something called the `White Revolution` and at one point, refusing to buy any British products… Our history books don’t contain such information and the original anti-colonial struggle of Greek Cypriots is presented in a `bad way`. What’s more, EOKA is struggling for ENOSIS and TMT for TAKSIM. So it’s two separate courses, two separate visions and maybe that’s why there is no connection of Turkish Cypriots with anti-colonial struggle waged in Cyprus. When sometimes I hear stories of some Turkish Cypriots helping some Greek Cypriots in their anti-colonial struggle, it is like a surprise! It is something rarely heard of or rarely acknowledged. That’s why, when a sentence including `Free and independent Cyprus` comes up, it becomes a trigger word… This slogan is used much later, in mid-70s by the Cypriot progressive student movement studying in the universities of Turkey… After the 74 tragedies, they bring out postcards demanding `A free, independent, non-aligned Cyprus`…

But Turkish Cypriots tend to equalize EOKA and TMT and even though EOKA closes down officially in 1959, all the atrocities throughout 60s and 70s are attributed to EOKA only. Much later, when the check-points open and I start doing more in-depth interviews about our `history`, I start learning very slowly not to attribute everything to `EOKA` and to question things taught to me during my school years.

I remember getting into trouble and having a hot argument with Alekos Konstantinides from ALITHIA newspaper once… He would try to tell me that `If you try to put TMT and EOKA as the same, it would be wrong. You are oversimplifying the whole issue…` but it would be too hard for me to listen to what he has to say at the time… Later I would realize through interviews with Makarios Drushiotis from POLITIS newspaper that there is another organization called `The Organization` led by Polikarpis Yorgacis… This is not EOKA, even though there might be people from the original EOKA in it… And in the 70s, there comes the EOKA-B, which the Greek Cypriots definitely differentiate from what EOKA was about. EOKA-B is the one who makes the coup and who tries to kill left-wing Greek Cypriots. Alekos Konstantinides was trying to tell me all of this but I would not listen at the time! It takes time to realize that what we have been taught at school has made deep marks and it’s really difficult to shift your thinking if you’re stuck on clichés…

In the painful exercise of writing a joint invitation, I feel hurt when I realize that my Greek Cypriot friend did not use the words `peace and democracy` in order to describe the struggle of the murdered Turkish Cypriot journalists… I realize that I should not feel hurt: she does not have first-hand experience of what sort of a struggle we have gone through and why the words `peace and democracy` carry so much weight for Turkish Cypriots, just as the words `free and independent Cyprus` would carry so much weight for Greek Cypriots. Lack of democracy was our problem, persecution for our ideas was our problem, not having the police under civilian control was our problem, is our problem… It is a part of life on this island, a part of an experience that perhaps, even though my Greek Cypriot friends know, it is not deeply perceived or felt in their subconscious. I go back again and again to what Jean Paul Sartre said: `Knowing is not necessarily feeling…` You might `know` something but you might not `feel` it… Even the number of journalists killed for their struggle for peace and democracy on the island show this: Starting from 1958 we lost Fazil Onder, the editor of INKILAPCI newspaper, Ayhan Hikmet and Ahmet Muzaffer Gurkan, owner of CUMHURIYET newspaper, Dervis Ali Kavazoglu who wrote articles in various newspapers and finally Kutlu Adali, a columnist and writer of YENIDUZEN newspaper. Five Turkish Cypriot journalists killed… No Greek Cypriot journalist was killed because of his or her ideas… It is a big number for such a small community as ours… Fazil Onder was struggling for keeping the two communities together and 1958 was the year when TMT set on a course of separating the two communities… Turkish Cypriot members of PEO were forced to resign from their trade union. 1958 was the last time when Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot workers celebrated 1st of May Labor Day together… Those who refused to resign from PEO or AKEL were killed… Fazil Onder was one of them… Later Ayhan Hikmet and Ahmet Muzaffer Gurkan, owner of the weekly CUMHURIYET newspaper were killed in 1962… They believed in the Republic of Cyprus and wanted the new republic to survive… They were waging a struggle for democracy and peace within the Turkish Cypriot community, asking for cooperation of the two communities, rather than confrontation… They were swimming against the tide of nationalism and fanaticism, paying it with their lives… Dervis Ali Kavazoglu was also on the `hit list` of TMT and he was killed together with Costas Mishaulis in the same car near Luricina (Akincilar) in 1965. Finally Kutlu Adali, outspoken critic of the regime in the north was killed in front of his house in 1996. The European Human Rights Court condemned Turkey for not making a proper investigation into the murder in order to catch and punish the murderers. The police did not even bother to take fingerprints from the house. I’m putting down just the `mere facts`, not the harassment, not the psychological terror before and after the murders, not the persecutions, not the suffering of the families who remained behind… And the struggle for peace and democracy continues in the northern part of our island, despite changes in the establishment…

Finally, with my Greek Cypriot friend, we agree on the wording of the joint invitation… It is a painful but enlightening process for me, breaking down the tip of the iceberg and trying to find out what lies underneath the `words` we use and what their connection is with history… And why they `trigger` such strong feelings in us… It is like fighting with the ghosts coming from history and it’s still a burden we carry as Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, left over as a `heritage` to us… One day, I’m sure, we will speak the `same language` because we will have a real perception of our history, whether it took place in this or that community. Perhaps then, words will come out `clean` to be used `freely`, without triggering deep emotions…

(*) Article published in the northern weekly CYPRUS TODAY on the 25th of June, 2005 and in the southern daily ALITHIA newspaper on the 26th of June, 2005.

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